How Do Hand in Hand Parenting’s Programs Support Families in Vulnerable Communities?

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Where does respectful parenting fit in when you have no house and no money for groceries? When you are desperately searching for a life free of domestic violence?

Mother and young boy looking at a toy

Hand in Hand Parenting’s Programs Supports Families Facing the Toughest Circumstances

For one shelter in San Francisco’s Bay Area, parent support programs are scheduled alongside legal services, counselling sessions and other key assistance needed to help parents – mostly mothers – overcome and make new lives on their own after leaving abusive situations.

For the last few years, Hand in Hand Parenting instructor Martin Lamarque has been part of that parent support program, teaching Hand in Hand’s Building Emotional Understanding in English and Spanish at the shelter. The class is part of a comprehensive program that helps families break a cycle of domestic violence.

Martin is one of a team of global instructors sharing Hand in Hand’s approach with underserved communities. Hand in Hand instructors also work with parents in programs attended by:

  • Teen Mothers
  • Domestic violence survivors,
  • Immigrant families
  • Families on reservation land
  • Mothers living in slums in India,
  • Fathers and Mothers serving within the US prison system
  • Parents and children in schools

How Hand in Hand Parenting Helps Break Cycles of Trauma

When basic needs are so pressing, why should a parent pay attention to listening to a child cry, or spending Special Time with them?

“The first time I went to teach at a shelter I had my doubts given how big the challenges families there were facing,” Martin says.

But as he found ways to teach basic listening tools, accessible tools that quickly that make communication and understanding easier between mothers and their children living with very difficult transitions, he saw the important contribution Hand in Hand Parenting could make.

“One of my goals has been to help adults identify the ways in which hardships they are going through may be contributing to more trauma for their kids, and making an already difficult situation, even more so,” Martin says.

Finding housing and a job is a big part of putting their lives back together, Martin says, but so too is learning to avoid making their children a target of their understandable frustration.

By listening to their experiences and to stories from their childhood, Martin has seen parents hardened by a rough upbringing yearn to provide better treatment and conditions for their children and succeed.

What Programs Do Hand in Hand Instructors Teach?

Diverse parents hugging and kissing their babyAfter completing Hand in Hand’s yearlong certification process Instructors can teach the Hand in Hand Starter Class with parents one-on-one, online and in community settings.

Many use Hand in Hand’s five parenting tools in existing parenting programs, or they may apply to Hand in Hand Parenting for funding to launch and run new community programs.

Already, in the last two years, Hand in Hand Parenting has provided close to $60,000 in scholarship funding for individual parents in need. Many of these funds support dedicated and determined parents who want to become Hand in Hand Parenting Instructors in their local communities.

Instructor Karen Murphy joined a mindfulness program with an organisation in Oregon called HAVEN, which exists to empower survivors of domestic and sexual violence. She ran the Starter class in English and Spanish and then held weekly support circles for both groups.

Parents felt regular ‘aha moments,’ she says. “One student that struggled with anger attributed being able to self-regulate her emotions and pull back from attacking a police officer that she had an altercation with thanks to the support and tools received in my classes,” Karen says.

Hand in Hand Parenting classes offer parents:

  • A safe space to be heard, and to share hardships and challenges without judgment
  • Ways to read understand children’s difficult behavior and the reasons driving the behavior
  • Tools that help build secure and loving connections with their children despite uncertainty and stress, with practical alternatives to punitive punishment, blame, and shame
  • A support that can be replicated among peers away from the class
  • Tools and resources to move beyond early and current trauma to healing

“One of the great things about teaching Hand in Hand Parenting is that no matter who your audience is, the ideas we promote quickly resonate with most parents – whether they are middle or upper class, or as in the case of the mothers in the shelter, those who struggle to meet even the most basic needs for themselves and their children,” says Martin.

Hand in Hand Parenting’s Community Programs Supports Trauma-informed Care Following ACEs

Hand in Hand Parenting’s approach fits within the ARC Framework to provide trauma-informed care for parents and children recovering from ACEs. Our instructor programs offer an effective method of reaching parents, empowering them with practical tools, solutions and a support system that can be part of a wider recuperative care and development with far-reaching effects. In addition, programs like these increase knowledge among professionals engaged in and committed to improving the lives of parents and their children.

Difficulties remain. Some parents need time to accept the ideas of the programs and will drop in sporadically until trust builds, and so longer or continuous programs are beneficial. Often, funding and resources, time and space are tight. Knowledge about the brain science guiding Hand in Hand’s approach is growing but is yet to be mainstream. And Hand in Hand Parenting is continually seeking to certify more instructors through fundraising initiatives to further knowledge and acceptance.

With Support, Parents Can Make Big Turnarounds

Even with limited time and resources, turnarounds happen often.

“I tell students at the beginning of my classes that what they are going to learn works like magic, but it is not instant. That for the trick to work, we need to, little by little, change the ways we have been treating each other, how we are treating our children, and how we are treating ourselves. So far, most have tried at least one of the listening tools in at least one area of their lives.”

This little by little approach will change parenting for the next generation.

From the Hand in Hand Parenting Toolbox:

Learn of the Clinical and Therapeutic Benefits of Hand in Hand Parenting

Take the Hand in Hand Professionals Intensive and bring Hand in Hand to your community or practice.

Learn more about our scholarships.

How Can I Use Hand in Hand with my Clients?

Learn neuroscience supporting Hand in Hand Parenting with practical and experiential applications. Find out about Hand in Hand’s Professionals Intensive 8-week class, with 20 CEUs. 

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Elle Kwan Elle Kwan

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